Hospital poetry, t-shirt quilts, a theology of advertising + a call for singers

Our email blast-administrator at work would nag me for the odd inconsistency, but I experimented a little with formatting this time. Let me know what you think.

Earlier this week, I finished reading physician Victoria Sweet's book God's Hotel, about the lessons she learned as a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, before and during the almshouse's transformation to a "modern center of care." It's probably the best, most moving book I've read so far this year. I wept aloud at one scene, but laughed and sighed and longed for more doctors like her at many other times.

One of the many patients whose story she tells is a man she calls Mr. Zed. I don't remember the background on him, but as a reward for those who carefully read the footnotes, she included this extra poem of his. I kind of want to memorize it.

Letter needing no stamp
To His Supreme Holiness, the Lord:
I sometimes wonder how you can bear
The dreadful burden of knowing everyone's thoughts.
The anguish, the heartbreak, the agony.
How can you even relax?
Maybe you try not to get too involved.
Or maybe you spend all night, weeping.

Why did you create such a sad world?
Why do infants die?
Why do honest people get cheated?
Why do the poor get crushed to the wall?
Personally I would turn down your job in a second.
You can't buy a pie or go to the movies.

And there are always people denouncing you and cursing you.
Some say you had a crazy son who said
I am the Way and the Life.

We must all pray that you never resign or become bitter.
As sad as things seem to be here
Without you they'd be infinitely worse.
Thank God for God
Stay in there buddy
Have a martini once in a while
Create a new universe.

"Mr. Zed was part of the poetry group at Laguna Honda," Dr. Sweet writes. "There were some very good poets in it."

:: events ::
  • SF class tension and the church meeting, 3/28: If you've followed the ongoing tensions over tech workers' presence in San Francisco (high rents, Google-bus protests, etc.) and wondered how the church could respond, a few of us are having a dinner meeting tomorrow night (March 28) to discuss this. We plan to meet at Schmidt's in the Mission (2400 Folsom St.) at 6:45 p.m. Others are welcome to join, but let me know you're coming so we grab a big enough table. If you can't make it but would be interested in future discussions, let me know that, too.
  • Ozymatli in Oakland, 3/28-3/29: The LA band plays the New Parish in downtown Oakland. I'm really tempted to catch the Saturday night show. Tickets: $30 in advance/$35 at the door. Doors at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. show.
  • Project Peace at Richmond's Pt. Isabel, 4/5: For the first time I can recall, Project Peace has a Richmond site, right by the Costco. Sign-up's been so low, though, they may have to cancel if more people don't register. Can you spare a few hours that Saturday? We'll be working from 9 to noon.
  • Easter dinner at my place, 4/20: Due to my Facebook fast, I won't be announcing this there, but please let me know if you don't have other Easter Dinner plans. I'd love to include you in the feast.
:: tunes ::
:: adventures ::
:: visual art ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
All this reminded me again of the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE, whose work I was fortunate enough to see during a U.S. exhibition a few years ago. If you've missed my previous rhapsodies on his work, you can get a glimpse on his website. His work is best seen in person, though, so if ever you get a chance to see an exhibit, don't miss it. Few artists have inspired me to such wonder and reflection with the same piece.

And if you want to refresh your memory of some protest songs from the last century, my friend Enuma did a nice piece last year on "the women who sang out for civil rights."

:: food ::

  • Quick dinner: Ever since my move, I seem to be getting home later and later (work's partly to blame, too, of course), which means that if I get home close to 8 -- as I did tonight -- and then decide to cook a longer recipe like tuna-noodle casserole, I might not eat until 9. Or 10. Thus, I've made this great, quick, spicy broccoli pasta dish several times recently. Though it doesn't call for meat, I chopped up bacon the last time and sauteed the garlic and red pepper flakes in the rendered fat without marring the dish. Though I blush a bit to recommend her, Martha Stewart does have some good, basic recipes.


Prayer for rejection, Wine/supper club? Wim Wenders viewing

As you know, I try to cover most of the senses with these posts, and also to share a mix of your, my and others' recent articles or projects. Each constitutes a kind of success, however, behind which trail failures and rejections. Sometimes such disappointments leave behind the kernel of a new idea; other times they chisel at our pride, impatience, half-formed ideas or even restlessness.

Lately, many of my ideas seem to keep meeting that knife of refinement, so in a recent update to friends who pray for my writing, I closed with this prayer for rejection. It resonated with several of them, so I thought I'd include it here, too.

Where we are self-protective, give us courage to risk again;
Where we want to turn inward in self-pity, give us generosity for others;
Where we tend to be immature, help us to respond with maturity;
Where we're tempted by cynicism, help us to hope in Your goodness anew;
Where we doubt Your calling and goodness, help us to trust You more deeply:
When we think You have wasted us; remind us of Your far-reaching redemption;
And when we begrudge Your seeming waste, give us the courage to joyfully yield ourselves to you even more;
Where we feel empty, fill us as only You can
That we may once again feast on Your beauty and goodness and choose to rejoice and trust once more.
Wishing you a restful Lenten season!

:: events ::
  • If you're interested in seeing Wim Wender's film Wings of Desire, from which I quoted a beautiful poem last time, the library finally processed my hold request! I have until March 21 to pick it up, and then at least a week from the date of check out to view it. Anyone want to watch it with me? I have only a laptop screen at home, but if a few folks are interested, maybe someone with a TV can host. (Yes, this film inspired that late-90s flick City of Angels, but I hear there's little comparison.) Possible viewing nights:
    • Friday, March 14
    • Saturday, March 15
    • Sunday, March 16
    • Friday, March 21
    • Saturday, March 22
    • Sunday, March 23
  • Project Peace, April 5: Spend the morning helping at one of several sites around the East Bay. Richmond folks, we have a chance to help close to home this time, with Greens at Work at Point Isabel (near the Richmond Costco). RSVP on Eventbrite to help them plan snacks, etc. Other sites include Claremont Middle School, where Blair did the mural a few years ago, and the West Oakland 16th Street Station. Site information on the Eventbrite page.
:: our stuff ::
:: reading/food for thought ::
:: tunes ::
  • First Listens this week include "noise-punk" band Perfect Pussy, French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux and a new recording of Sibelius violin concertos.
  • One thing I've really come to love about the local jazz radio station (KCSM, 91.1) is how attuned the DJs are to recent musician/artist deaths, birthdays and so on. So a couple a weeks ago, I was making my morning coffee and green smoothie before work when I learned that a legendary flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucia, had died. Later that day, I saw a tribute from violinist Mark O'Connor that feature this video of de Lucia playing "Tico Tico," It's quite a performance.
  • Paul Simon and Sting are touring together, the New York Times reports, but unfortunately you'll have to travel east to hear one of their joint shows.
  • If you're thinking of hearing a concert in the near future, don't forget that the artRecs blog includes a fairly detailed venue list, with tips on bypassing ticket fees, parking and concessions. I'm also posting concerts of interest in the blog right column, such as upcoming shows from Paula Cole, Sharon Jones, John Legend and more.
:: visual art & film ::
  • If you find yourself in L.A. this spring, consider including the Getty museum in your itinerary. Through June 1, the museum's displaying a recently refurbished Jackson Pollock painting called "Mural."
  • A.O. Scott wrote such a great lead for this review of Wes Anderson's new film Grand Budapest Hotel that it needs no further explanation: "It’s a tough choice, but if I had to pick the most Wes Anderson moment ... it would be the part when inmates escape from a prison using tiny sledgehammers and pickaxes that have been smuggled past the guards inside fancy frosted pastries." In fact, it sounds like so much fun, I might have to actually go see it. Anyone want to come with? It opens in the Bay area this weekend.
:: poetry ::
:: food ::
  • Looking to bone up on wine? Te New York Times has launched a new monthly feature called Wine School that starts with bordeaux. Here's my fantasy: once a month, a few of us gather for a dinner party that's structured around the wine of the month to try it alongside a suggested meal. I'd be happy to host and do at least some of the cooking, if the group figured out a way to split the cost of one or two of the bottles the column considers. Anyone interested?
  • A recent search for ways to use my CSA beets led me to these interesting recipes for juices made with butternut squash and turmeric and kale, apples, parsley and ginger. I hope to try them in my blender. Since neither juice used beets, though, I kept searching ... and found these three beet cocktail recipes on Alton Brown's Serious Eats site (which also turned me onto that ginger liqueur recipe that several of you have tasted). New food adventures ahead!